DOI: 10.3390/f14122355 ISSN: 1999-4907

Impact of Temperature and Moisture on the Decomposition of Peat-Forming Plants: Results of a Two-Year Incubation Experiment

Liliya Nikonova, Irina Kurganova, Valentin Lopes de Gerenyu, Olga Rogova, Evgeniya Golovatskaya
  • Forestry

The decomposition rate of plant residues is determined by both abiotic (temperature, moisture) and biotic factors (biochemical composition). To separate the contribution of each factor to the decomposition process, long-term incubation experiments under controlled conditions are required. Two-year incubation experiments were conducted with various types of peat-forming plants (Sphagnum fuscum, Chamaedaphne calyculata, Eriophorum vaginatum, and a mixed sample consisting of 60% Sphagnum fuscum and 40% Chamaedaphne calyculata). The experiments were carried out at temperatures of 2, 12, and 22 °C, with varying moisture levels (W = 30, 60, and 90% of their water-holding capacity). In all plant samples, the highest rates of C(CO2) emission (DecR) were observed in the initial stages of decomposition. The cumulative carbon loss (Ccum) during the experiment ranged from 45 to 196 mgC/g of plant material at 22 °C and 23 to 156 mgC/g of plant material at 2 °C. The decay constant (k) for all plant samples increased with rising temperature. The results of the three-way ANOVA showed that the influence of the examined factors on the cumulative losses of C(CO2) decreased in the following order: the type of plant > temperature > moisture. Throughout the experiment, the influence of the type of plant and moisture on DecR increased, while the effect of temperature decreased. The highest temperature sensitivity (Q10 = 0.71–6.19) was observed in the low-temperature range (2–12 °C) during months 4 to 6 of incubation. These results are relevant for modeling and predicting the rate of transformation of peat organic matter under changing climatic conditions.

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